Hearts is a game which probably appeared at the end of the 19th century in the United States and is played with a traditional 52 card deck.
It then quickly spread throughout the world, and especially as an electronic version since 1995, when Microsoft has decided to put it forward, providing it by default with all Windows versions.
The goal of the game is extremely simple, you have to do as few points as possible by avoiding to take tricks containing cards that are worth points.
The game is preferably played with 4 players, but can also be played with 3, 5 or 6 players using almost the same rules, by taking care of removing certain cards so that everyone has the same amount. Rules that are described first are those of 4 players game, differences for a game with 3, 5 or 6 players come next.
Each heart is worth 1 point, and the queen of spade alone is worth 13 points. Each round thus gives 26 points.
The game ends when a player reaches a limit score, 100 points in general. The winner is then the player who has fewest points at that moment.
Course of the game
A round starts with an exchange phase, where each player chooses 3 cards to give to another player. Each player will of course receive 3 cards in return. In principle, one tries to discard cards such as big hearts or the queen of spade, but you can choose whatever you want.
The players look at the cards coming from their neighbors only when everybody finished discarding the cards they want to give.
Exchanges take place following a well defined alternation:
- First round: you give to your neighbor on the left
- Second round: to the neighbor on your right
- Third round: to your opposite player
- Fourth round: to yourself (therefore no exchange is made)
Once the exchanges are finished, the player having the 2 of clubs begins the first trick with this card.
You must follow suit if you can. In case you can't, you can play any card of your choice. The player who has the greatest card of the led suit wins the trick and begins the next one.
There is no trump and card order is as usual, ace being the greatest and 2 the least one.
In the first trick, you must start with the 2 of clubs, and you aren't allowed to play cards that are worth points, the queen of spades in particular.
It is also forbidden to begin a trick with a heart as long as no one played any heart, unless it's the only possibility. The first heart played is often told to break hearts.
Shooting the moon and the sun
If a player manages to take all cards that are worth points, i.e. the queen of spades and the 13 hearts, he's said to have shot the moon. Instead of getting 26 points, he gets no point while all other player each take 26. Of course, trying to shoot the moon is quite risky, except if you have an exceptionally bad hand.
If a player manages to take all tricks, he's said to have shot the sun. In that case, he lose 26 points while each other get them.
Hearts with 3, 5 or 6 players
The game was designed to be played preferably with 4 players, but you can play with 3, 5 or 6 players with a few small differences which are as follows:
- With 3 players:
- The 2 of diamonds is removed from the deck, so that everyone has 17 cards
- The order of the exchanges is the following: to the left, to the right, and then to yourself
- With 5 players:
- The 2 of diamonds and the 2 of spades are removed so that each player has 10 cards
- The order of the exchanges is the following: to the left, to the right, to the 2nd on the left, to the 2nd on the right, and then to yourself
- With 6 players:
- The four 3s are removed and each player plays with 8 cards. Another possibility consists of removing the four 2s and begin the first trick with the 3 of spades. One can also add two jokers to the deck and play with 9 cards.
- The order of the exchanges is the following: to the left, to the right, to the 2nd on the left, to the 2nd on the right, to the opposite player, and then to yourself
The jack of diamonds
The jack of diamonds variant makes that card worth -10 points.
Note that the general strategy is quite modified by this rule, because the goal is now to try getting this card while still avoiding other point cards. It isn't required to take this card to shoot the moon.
- C: announce cards currently on the table
- 1-6: announce cards currently on the table, one by one
- S: announce scores
- T: announce whose turn it is